Tag Archives: book reviews

Three New Releases in Six Months: Too Fast?

With the dust beginning to settle, I’m surveying my little publishing empire, seeing what has worked and hasn’t worked since January 2022. As a refresher on the timeline of my new releases this year:

WATERSPELL: The Complete Series (Books 1-4) by Deborah J. Lightfoot; audiobook narrated by Simon de DeneyWhat a relief to have all of this frantic effort behind me! Now I can focus on making pretty promotional graphics at Canva to post on social media. I can try to remember to upload new videos to my somewhat neglected YouTube channel. Most importantly, I can start planning a new book.

Too Much, Too Fast?

At this natural pausing point, it behooves me to pause and consider whether releasing three new books or editions in less than six months might have been rushing things a little. If this frantic schedule has left my head spinning, I fear it has also confused my readers.

Waterspell: The Complete Series by Deborah J. LightfootBarely had I begun begging for reviews for Waterspell Book 4: The Witch before I was begging equally earnestly for reviews for The Complete Series boxed set. Some readers, I suspect, got muddled: They didn’t fully grasp that Book 4 is a separate publication from The Complete Series. And thus, they didn’t realize that each publication needs to be reviewed separately. Although Amazon correctly shows The Complete Series (the boxed set) as being one part of the Waterspell series, reviews for each individual book in that series are not immediately visible to shoppers who are looking at any single title in the collection. That is to say: Amazon treats each book (and edition) individually, which creates (in me) a need for readers to take the time to post individual reviews for every book and every edition. A big ask.

Waterspell Book 4: The Witch by Deborah J. LightfootIndeed, that’s a lot to ask of even the most ardent fan. All of my asking—first for the individual Book 4: The Witch, then for the boxed ebook set, and now for the culminating audiobook—has befuddled even me. I’ve no doubt that I’ve raised confusion in the minds of many readers. They (and I) would have benefited from a slower pace of new releases in 2022.

Nevertheless, rushed though it was, I’m delighted to have all of the publishing frenzy done and dusted. The new titles and new editions are out there, readers are finding them, and new reviews are appearing. The six-month sprint is over. Now I settle into the marathon of ongoing, nearly continuous book promotion.

Book Promo Overview

In May, I ranked the promotions I’d used, according to their effectiveness. With another month of experience behind me now, I’m revising two of my earlier estimations. Both of my giveaways—Goodreads and Reader Views—have improved their grades from C to B-minus.

  • Goodreads was a giveaway of 100 Kindle ebooks of The Complete Series. That giveaway has now netted me five-star ratings from two of the winners, along with a very nice review from one of those satisfied readers: “Loved it. Couldn’t put it down. 5 star box set. I may actually reread this because I enjoyed it so much.”
  • Reader Views was a giveaway of physical copies. I’d been disappointed that no recipient of those rather pricey, high-quality paperbacks had responded by word or deed. But on May 28, a winner of a print book posted on Goodreads: “Thank you, Deborah. I loved this novel and can’t wait to start Waterspell 2.” Those few words made everything worthwhile, all the expense and effort of mailing out physical copies.

I hope this doesn’t sound whiny. I’m truly grateful for every review and every star. Readers are busy. I get that. Writing reviews can be hard. I get that, too: I suck at writing reviews. Some of the reviews my books have received have filled me with awe, they’re so insightful and so beautifully written. Me? About all I can ever think to write about a book is: “I liked it.” Too many mandatory book reports in my school days ruined me for writing book reviews, I fear. But every author will value a simple “I liked it” as much as they value a detailed, four-paragraph analysis.

All reviews count. Every review matters.

To sum up: Marketing is hard, it’s expensive, and it’s time-consuming. To ensure that I’m spending my promotional dollars effectively and using my time wisely, I must pause occasionally and analyze how I’m meeting, or not meeting, my goals. At this point in my writing life, my goals are to get more reviews. At present, reviews are more important than sales. Without reviews, books (and audiobooks) won’t sell. First comes the writing/publishing, then the reviews, and THEN the sales.

Quick Links to Post Reviews

If you’re a reader who is inclined to help me out with a new review (or two, or five), I’ll be eternally grateful. 💙 Here are the direct links to post reviews at Amazon:

Waterspell: The Complete Series
Book 1: The Warlock
Book 2: The Wysard
Book 3: The Wisewoman
Book 4: The Witch

These links go to Goodreads:

Waterspell: The Complete Series
Book 1: The Warlock
Book 2: The Wysard
Book 3: The Wisewoman
Book 4: The Witch

Also, if you’d like to review the new audiobook edition, the following retailers will allow you to leave a review without having bought the audiobook there:

Apple
Google
Amazon (but not Audible)
Kobo
Scribd (with free trial)
Downpour
Goodreads

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My NetGalley Experiment

When I first looked into NetGalley (“We Help Books Succeed”) I thought it was beyond reach because of the budget-busting expense. But then I learned about these things called “NetGalley co-ops,” which are group ventures that bring the cost down considerably. Going through a co-op (I am using Victory Editing), a writer can put a book on NetGalley for $50 for one month and start sending out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to all sorts of industry professionals, including booksellers and librarians.

My listing for Waterspell: The Complete Series (Boxed Set: Books 1–4) is scheduled to run through April 29. In just the first two days of it being on NetGalley, I’ve received requests from more than 40 interested readers, including several booksellers, educators, and institutional as well as school librarians. These are people who would not have known my series even existed, if not for NetGalley.

This experiment has only just begun. Proof of its success (or failure) will lie in how many reviews my boxed set gets, and the quality of those reviews. At this early stage, however, I’m thinking that NetGalley, accessed via a co-op, is a good investment. At the very least, I’m getting exposure in a much larger arena than Bookstagram and Facebook—and my cover art for The Complete Series is getting all thumbs-up so far! Not a single negative vote has appeared yet, which validates my choice of a traditional two-dimensional cover instead of the 3-D “boxed set” graphics that many writers are using (to their detriment, in my opinion, since those 3-D images hide the pretty cover art and make the books’ boring spines prominent).

Another useful aspect of a NetGalley listing is the space it provides for a Marketing Plan. Forced to actually think about it, I came up with this:

Goals

The magic number of reviews is 50. That’s what I’m hoping for: a total of 50 reviews at Amazon for The Complete Series.

Past experience with Goodreads Giveaways suggests that only a fraction of the 100 individuals who won Kindle copies of the boxed set will actually post a review. I may be lucky to get 10 reviews from that giveaway.

Which means I’m pinning most of my hopes on the NetGalley reviewers. I’m appealing to you, you lovely librarians and booksellers: help me out with plentiful reviews. They don’t all have to be 5-star (though a girl can hope and dream, and extend oodles of humble gratitude to everyone who is so kind and generous).

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Passing Through Portals: Fantasy Review Copies for Readers

First, let’s define it: A portal fantasy is a story about a character who gets transported (perhaps voluntarily, perhaps not) into a fantastic or alternate world. They pass through a portal of some kind (a wardrobe? a tunnel? an interdimensional hole?) and find themselves in a reality that’s different from the world they left behind.

“As anyone who reads science fiction and fantasy can tell you, life is full of doors … appearing unexpectedly, leading to unexpected places. Other worlds, other times. Narnia. An alien planet. The Bronze Age.” James Davis Nicoll

During December, you’re invited to explore a couple of dozen portals and doorways, via “Passing Through Portals,” a month-long promotion sponsored by StoryOrigin and 20 or so participating authors, myself among them.

You can pick up a free review copy of Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock. And while you’re there, please check out all the other titles, also free to download and read, in exchange for honest reviews.

Enjoy your otherworldly travels!

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Free Book #1 featured at ManyBooks

The ManyBooks library is featuring Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock today. In anticipation of the 2022 release of Book 4, the series-starter remains free in all ebook formats. If you’ve been planning to pick up a copy, all of the quick-links to all of the booksellers are here:
https://deals.manybooks.net/ebooks/the-warlock-waterspell-book-1

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Book Giveaway at Reader Views

Reader Views November 2021 Book Giveaway

Happy November (and early Christmas shopping)! The book people at Reader Views are giving away more than 30 books this month, including 3 print copies of my Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock. (Pictured dead center, under the word “Give.”) To win, enter at https://www.readerviews.com/book-giveaway/ (scroll down to the bottom of that page, to the red banner where it says “Enter the Book Giveaway”).

If you win one, kindly leave a review for that book on Amazon, Goodreads, Google Books, Barnes & Noble, BookBub, Indigo, etc. – Wherever you find yourself looking for your next great read!

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Five Months Out: Adjusting the Promotion Plan

Four weeks have flown by in a swirl of promotional activities. Now it’s time to take stock and decide what’s working, and what needs adjusting.

Discounting. Making Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock free in all ebook formats has definitely raised the book’s profile. At one point, it ranked about #1,200 in the Kindle store, and around #46 in Fantasy Adventure Fiction. Alas, I did not screen-shoot those lofty numbers, so now I can’t prove what I saw. As of today, however, the book is still ranking respectably at Amazon (as pictured). Its sales rank at Barnes & Noble also improved quite a bit. There’s no doubt: making it free has made Book 1 more visible.

Amazon rankings 10-18-2021

Reviews. Free ebooks have NOT yielded new reviews, however. I’m kinda gobsmacked over the difficulty of getting readers to post reviews. Even giving away paperback copies to potential reviewers has garnered only one new review in a whole month. It’s a reality check, for sure, regarding the vast numbers of books that are available to readers, and the vast numbers of authors who are clamoring for the attention of those readers.

StoryOrigins Portal fantasy promo graphicExploring additional avenues to get reviews, I’ve signed up at StoryOrigin. There, I posted a sample as a Reader Magnet, and my offer of a free review copy has been accepted by two readers so far. Also, I’ll be participating in a group promo for Portal Fantasy books, Dec. 1–31.

Just today, I entered Waterspell Book 1 in a monthly book giveaway sponsored by Reader Views. Am waiting to hear when the giveaway will be scheduled. It’ll be in time, I hope, to help with next year’s planned Book 4 publicity.

Bookstagram. This platform has been encouraging. I’m connecting with other authors, and with reviewers and book bloggers. Two readers have accepted my offer of a free review copy in exchange for honest reviews. Those reviews have not yet been posted, leaving me to wonder whether they will be. Fingers crossed.

BookBub ads. Mixed results here. I’ve tested various graphics. All of these (below) have attracted some clicks, but none has performed spectacularly. For my next month of advertising, I’m switching to Freebooksy.

Blog Tours. Going on blog tours was the best way I got reviews when the Waterspell trilogy was first published. I’m thinking it may be time to investigate what’s available these days. On Bookstagram, I follow TBR and Beyond Tours. Not sure they’re a perfect fit, but I’ll look into them further. I’ve bookmarked several other possibilities at The Book Designer.

Those of you who occasionally read my blog posts (thank you! I love you!) have probably figured out, by now, that I use this space for thinking out loud. It’s my planning area. Without my posts on “discoverability,” I’d never be able to keep track of plans made, plans executed, or plans adjusted. All of this marketing work is squeezed into the hours when I’m not actively writing—or formatting.

On top of everything else, I’m repaginating the paperback editions to skinny-up the print books a tad (in light of current printing and shipping costs) and to update the copyright and About the Author pages. Scattered about my house are PDFs of Books 1, 2, and 4, with Book 3 yet to be repaginated. The Book 4 manuscript is out with my final beta reader, I’m busily promoting Book 1, and I’m trying to be a regular Bookstagrammer, while not wholly neglecting Goodreads and Facebook. The days are just packed! And now I’ve added StoryOrigin to my online efforts. I can’t keep this up forever. About a month after Book 4 is published, I’m going to collapse and sleep for three days.

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Six Months Out: Working the Promotion Plan

Release date for Waterspell Book 4 is March 18, 2022. Which means I’m now officially in the six-month pre-release window. I’ve got a plan and I’m working it.

Today I made Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock free at every bookseller that will let me: B&N, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords. Amazon is resisting going lower than 99 cents, and I can’t figure out how to “tell them about a lower price.” I thought there would be a button or something to click on the book’s Amazon page, but I’m not seeing it. Maybe Amazon’s zealousness about not being undersold will soon work to drop the Kindle price to free. Google Books also seems slow to respond to my price drop; I’ll keep checking back until the Google page shows it for free.*

*9/21/21 Update: Amazon and Google have caught up. The Book 1 ebook is now free in ALL ebook formats. Price-matching triumphs again. 😀

Most of the rest of today, I’ve spent making Instagram posts to get the word out about a free ebook. I’m not quite ready to post either of these yet, preferring to feature a few more Reader Reviews first, but these graphics are ready to go when the time seems right:

I’ve also reached out to some book reviewers with whom I’ve connected on Instagram. I have review copies (print and ebook) ready to send out in exchange for honest reviews. (Fantasy fans, you need merely ask, and you shall receive.)

Waterspell trilogyThe Book 4 manuscript has gone out to a trusted beta reader who is herself an author. I know that I (and the book) will greatly benefit from her feedback. She’s showing me the great kindness of reading the entire original trilogy to refresh her memory of the backstory before diving into Book 4.

Now it’s quitting time for today, and my neck is stiff from too many hours at the computer. I’ll need to learn to pace myself as the clock counts down to December 18, 2021, the first day of pre-orders, and then to March 18, 2022, the Book 4 release day. I’m trying to figure out when and how to do a Cover Reveal in there somewhere.

Which reminds me: I must also see to a new paperback cover for Book 4. To do that, I’ll need to determine how many pages the book will occupy in print. No point doing that, though, until I hear from my beta reader. Almost certainly her comments will lead to a final round of edits.

It’s going to be a busy Fall and Spring. I’m ready. I have a plan and I’m working it.

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Canva and I and Waterspell and Instagram

Notebook from Mexico 001Sitting on a bookshelf over my computer desk, for several years, has been a spiral notebook that I filled with quotes and notes from the books I was reading while writing the first three books of Waterspell. I bought the notebook in Mexico, where my late husband and I were living at the time, and where the original Waterspell trilogy was largely written. Our house on Lake Chapala, south of Guadalajara, made for the perfect writer’s den. I was insulated from my formerly too-busy life north of the border, and could devote myself full-time to the creative act of writing fiction, and to reading widely in support of my work.

Once the original trilogy got published, I seldom or never looked at the notebook that I’d filled with pertinent or inspiring notes and quotes. After getting on Instagram, however, I pulled the notebook off the shelf and, paging through it, discovered that I had created a wonderfully diverse archive of readily Instagram-able thoughts and sayings.

They have inspired me to feverish sessions at Canva, where I’ve upgraded to a Pro account to have access to ALL of the pretty pictures. I’m having a great time creating square-shaped graphics that feature quotes gleaned from my jam-packed notebook. On Instagram I’m alternating such quotes with excerpts from readers’ reviews of Waterspell, and the strategy seems to be working. I’m connecting with readers, reviewers, bloggers, and other authors much faster and more easily than I’ve ever managed to do on my largely useless Facebook author page.

Here’s a sample of the Author Quotes that I’ve taken from my old Mexican notebook and transformed on the Canva interface into post-worthy graphics:

And here are some of the graphics I’ve made to feature excerpts from readers’ reviews:

I am deeply grateful to the readers and bloggers who gave Waterspell such wonderful reviews upon the books’ original publication. I’m grateful to Canva for making it so easy and such fun to feature these review snippets as attractive graphics. I’m grateful to Bookstagram for giving me a place to post my Canva creations. Canva and I, and my books and Instagram, are jelling together quite well these days. Giving me hope that I may yet break through the static and bring my work to the attention of new readers, upon the publication of Waterspell Book 4, and to new listeners as well, when the long-in-progress audiobooks are finally released.

When books meet tech the right way, the results can be beautiful.

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Making a Place for Myself on Bookstagram

Being more oriented to words than to pictures, I had no interest in Instagram until I learned about its subgenre, Bookstagram. (Book Instagram = #bookstagram ) Now I’ve taken the plunge. Early activity is promising: In just my first two days I connected with several book reviewers and bloggers. When I get at least 20 potential reviewers, I’ll offer them complimentary copies of Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock. I’m told that Amazon treats writers better when their books have at least 50 reviews. As a series, Waterspell has more than that, but Book 1 by itself has only 35. My goal is to get that number to at least 50 before I start serious promotion of the forthcoming audiobooks and Book 4.

If you enjoy reviewing fantasy books, please drop me a note at waterspell(at)earthlink(dot)net. I have review copies of The Warlock available in all formats, print as well as ebooks, but I can mail the paperbacks within the US and Canada only.

Full disclosure up front: Book 1: The Warlock ends on a cliffhanger. And as reviewer Twiggy Piggy says: “The moment you finish this book, you WILL want to go on to the next.” (Perhaps I could supply you with that next book, too. Let’s talk.)

If you’re on Instagram, please look me up here.

Instagram photos BooksofWaterspell

https://www.instagram.com/booksofwaterspell/

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Time to Work Out the Plan

Waterspell tagline on sunsetFor a year, I’ve been laying the groundwork:

• New covers, first for the ebooks and now for the paperbacks
• Ongoing work on the audiobooks
• New book trailers, created via Biteable
• Reformatted Facebook author page
• Updated Amazon author page
• Updated Goodreads profile
• Lots of social media graphics newly made at Canva.com

My next steps include looking into the usefulness of these things:

• BookBub
• The Fussy Librarian
• Blog tours
• Goodreads Giveaways
• Amazon advertising
• Written Word Media
• Instagram

I know who I’ll ask for new reviews to augment the glowing reviews that Waterspell received upon the books’ initial publication. The circle I move in, these days, is much changed from the social circle that I knew before my husband’s death in 2012. Now, I number among my friends many anti-fascist activists, folks I got to know after November 2016. Most of them didn’t even know I was a many-times published author; it wasn’t what drew us together. Now, gradually, I’m revealing my past life and enlisting the support of those who are willing to help me recover something of it.

Waterspell Book 1 detail

Am I dreaming, thinking I can relaunch a 10-year-old fantasy series? Possibly. But I’m making final edits to Waterspell Book 4, preparing for a 2022 release. And the audiobooks are slowly coming together, after my wonderfully talented narrator endured a major upheaval in his own world. It took him away from the work for six months—disruptive, yes, but not as damaging to a career as was my own dark, nine-year period of grief and neglect. If nothing else goes too badly wrong, the audiobooks should be released in 2022, along with Book 4.

I’m thinking those two events could be and should be enough to spark new interest in the original trilogy. If I will get out there and promote, dammit. It’s no secret that promotion takes money, and I’m prepared to pay, within reason, for advertising. Here’s what I plan for my first sponsored Facebook post:

waterspell-fb“Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Charlotte Brontë.” From award-winning author Deborah J. Lightfoot, an unforgettable epic fantasy that readers call “extraordinary, enthralling, completely unpredictable.” Think “Jane Eyre meets a sorcerer.” Coming in 2022, Book 4 of Waterspell will complete the series. Print & ebooks available. Audiobooks in progress. www.waterspell.net

Amazon advertising and BookBub being completely new to me, I’ll need to discover how they may or may not fit into the budget. But at least I’ve got a little ready cash to spend on a new promotional push. The 2020 Pandemic Year not only gave me time and opportunity to pursue audiobooks and to write Book 4, it saved me money. I went nowhere and cooked meals at home. Everything I didn’t spend on travel and restaurants is now earmarked for book promotion.

I hope to Drisha this plan of mine will get these four books in front of the readers who will most enjoy them. At this point, it’s readership I want—not fortune so much, just a tiny bit of fame to validate the years I’ve spent obsessing over this story of mine.

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